Why is every child in NI worth less than every child in the rest of the UK, asks headmaster of Lurgan College
Mr Kyle McCallan, whose school is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, said the ‘current crisis in education was clear’ with the ‘lack of investment, the cuts, the neglect so apparent in education’.
He pointed out the ‘significant issues around recruitment and the retention of teachers, undoubtedly linked to teacher pay and the subsequent ongoing industrial action, which seeks only to see greater parity between our teaching staff and their colleagues in the other parts of these islands’.
"The question is a simple one. Why is every child in NI worth less than every child in the rest of the UK in educational terms? Of course, our biggest challenge is how we, as schools, who passionately want the best for every child, minimise the impact of this neglect on a daily basis. The problem is that we have proven to be so good at this, that it seems to be taken for granted, and as such the much-needed wheels of change continue to move, if indeed they are moving at all, at an unacceptably slow pace.”
Mr McCallan revealed that hopes are high that the first sod will be cut on the new Sports Hall and teaching block by December next year ‘if and when capital funding becomes available’.
Headmaster Mr Kyle McCallan described the 150th anniversary of Lurgan College as a year of honours with his predecessor, Trevor Robinson, receiving an OBE, former bursar, Mrs Jill Gough receiving a BEM, former pupil, Claire Henderson receiving an MBE and Dr Mollie McGeown, another alumni honoured with an Ulster History Circle ‘Blue Plaque’ in recognition of her ground-breaking work in Nephrology, Kidney Dialysis and Kidney transplantation.
Mr McCallan paid tribute to two members of staff. Mrs Amber Delport retired after 40 years service. She began her career in 1983, in the Maths department and she was soon elevated to Head of Mathematics. She later became a Senior Leader where her clear thinking and common-sense approach was very much valued. She was known for her passion for young people which extended beyond the classroom and, in particular, onto the sports field where the pupils benefited from her love of athletics, badminton, and netball.
Miss Tracey Carberry, affectionally known to most as ‘TC’, has retired after 31 years. She held many different roles including House Teacher, Academic Tutor, Assistant or Drama Director and teacher of or Head of Biology. Mr McCallan said: “A sheer love of her job, a sheer love of people and a sheer love of God that shone through every minute of every day of those 31 years."
Mr McCallan said: “Last year saw public examinations, take another step towards ‘normality’, if anyone can ever remember what that is in education these days. Over the last number of years, we have had to deal with ‘Algorithm’s, ‘Centre Determined Grades’, ‘Centre Assessed Grades’, ‘Unit Omissions’, ‘Missed Unit Calculations’, ‘Reserve Series’ to last years ‘Advance Information’. The ability of our pupils and staff to deal with these seemingly endless changes is something that should not and must not be underestimated. Against this backdrop, we were also asked to brace ourselves for lower results in 2023 as exam boards and regulators set about returning to pre-pandemic grading. Indeed, across the country results were lower than in previous years. Lurgan College, however, bucked that trend.”
He added: “At A2 level, with a 100% overall pass rate for the second successive year, over 82% of students achieving 3+A*-C grades and all almost 70% of all grades at A*-B, this was indeed another special year for our Year 14 students. Our Y13 pupils, also excelled at AS Level in 2023. Over 87% of all grades awarded were at A-C with 2/3’s of all grades A or B. 6 pupils achieved 4 straight A grades and a further 9 pupils secured an impressive 3 grade A’s each.
"Last year I took great delight in reporting that our GCSE cohort achieved the best results in the history of the school. Well, this year’s Year 12’s were not to be outdone. Two thirds of pupils achieved 7+ A*-B grades including English and Maths, with every pupil achieving 7 GCSE’S at grades A*-C also including English and Maths. The College’s total of 26 pupils achieving 9 or more A* / A grades is a wonderful achievement.”
Mr McCallan also spoke of how College pupils continue to excel in extra and co-curricular programmes. The Public Speaking Society enjoyed ‘phenomenal success’ in the Soroptimist Public Speaking Competition. Also there were great achievements in the Rotary Youth Leadership Development Competition.
"In science, our top Year 14 students took part in the British Biology Olympiad alongside 13000 top school biologists in the UK. Special mention must go to John Brown, Wynonah McConnell and Ethan Todd who were awarded bronze medals and to Hollie Barbour, Marcus Bryan and Ruth Douglas who were all commended. Not to be outdone, six A2 pupils took part in the Physics Challenge organised by Oxford University with Ethan Todd once again top scoring for the College in achieving a Merit.
“Our Art students continue to excel; Robyn McIlwaine’s work chosen to hang in the Ulster Museum at the CCEA True Colours Exhibition.”
Scripture Union continues to play a central role in the life of the school. The Community Service committee continue to serve the needs of others less fortunate within the local and global community.
Mr McCallan also spoke of the success of the music groups in the school as well as the sporting teams.